Background of South Carolina Vital Records
On September 1, 1914, a law was passed in South Carolina. That law required that all deaths and births be registered. However, it wasn’t until 1915 that the law was actually put into practice. After a few years, about 90% of the state’s population was complying with the law. The state holds the original death and birth certificate records. However, copies may be obtained through the Office of Vital Records and Public Health Statistics at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Requests can be made by phone and paid for using MasterCard or Visa. However, there will be additional fees for mailing the information and for rush requests.
Although the state holds death and birth records, copies have been given to each county in the state. Also, some cities in South Carolina do have death and birth records on file from the time before registration was mandatory on a statewide level. For example, the city of Charleston has birth records dating back to 1877, while its death records date back to 1821. Another example is the city of Georgetown, which began recording vital records in 1883. There were also several parishes established by the Church of England in 1706. They recorded marriages, christenings, burials and other vital information that could be useful to researchers who are interested in South Carolina’s colonial history.
Prior to 1911, there was no law requiring marriage licenses in the State of South Caroline. There was also no registration requirement. On July 1, 1977, Assembly Act No. 70 was passed. It was “An Act to Require Marriage Licenses and Regulate Their Issuances.” Each county probate judge has marriage license records on file. Both common law marriages and those that were performed by canonical law were recognized before 1911. Although several early marriages were documented by various churches, the recorded marriages only accounted for a very small portion of marriages that actually took place. Premarital agreements were often made in earlier times. Also, widows would often make settlements with their second husbands in order to protect the children that they had with their first husbands. Records of those sorts of events are extant for approximately 1760 to 1890. The Salt Lake City office of the Family History Library (FHL) has many of those records on file. Some can also be found at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, or in county conveyance books. Many marriages have also been documented in newspapers from 1732 to the present day.
The process of divorce was illegal in the state of South Carolina up until 1949. County courts have handled divorce cases ever since then and those records can be obtained at the county court clerk’s office. Some records were also lost in various courthouse fires.